Jia Zhang-Ke China

Filmmaker Jia Zhang-Ke (1970, Fenyang) breaks away from previous generations’ historical dramas and political idealisations to convey other kinds of realities. He depicts episodes in the life and loyalties of a teenage pickpocket (Xiao Wu, 1997); working conditions and workers facing unemployment, aging and broken state promises (24 City, 2008); the displaced and soon-to-be displaced figuring out how to proceed as public buildings are demolished, houses submerge under the rising waters of the Three Gorges Dam and human ties are stretched to the limit (Still Life, 2006). Jia combines humanistic realism with striking aesthetics and rich cultural texture. A master of the long shot that gradually fills with subtle gestures and details, Jia makes time palpable and delights in ironies and allusions: a spaceship lift-off, a tightrope-walker between high-rises. He captures universal human experiences that exist regardless of context, and shows Chinese ways of coping, maintaining deeply held values, surviving with the quiet dignity, restraint and resourcefulness of the ‘still living’. Jia Zhang-Ke is honoured for the outstanding aesthetic and intellectual qualities of his work, for his committed social engagement in focusing on the realities of ordinary contemporary lives, for his significant contribution to local cultural identity and confidence, and for creatively transcending and altering the frontiers of reality.

2010 Awards Book here